Earth 2150 is Ahead of its Time

When I saw this game displayed at E3. I knew this was a game where if the demo proved to be as good as the final version, I was going to enjoy this game. And I was not disappointed! The only real problem with this game is that if falls into the flooded ground combat real time strategy genre. Earth 2150 has some unique aspects that may help it rise above the pack, if people start to take notice.

Obviously, the game is set in 2150. The Eurasian Dynasty (ED) used their stockpile of nuclear weapons to attack some United Civilized States (UCS) bases at the North Pole. As expected this attack took out those bases. An unexpected aftereffect was a series of explosions that set the Earth and the moon on a collusion course with the sun. As you might imagine, everyone wants to get off the planet. The catch is that there is only enough energy stockpiles to move one faction off the planet. Thus, the stage for the conflict between the Lunar Corp (LC), the ED and the UCS is set.

The UCS was created from some of the former United States and uses primarily robotic technology. The ED was primarily forged from the former Soviet block and uses a lot of former soviet military technology and hardware. The final group, the LC, is a very research oriented corporation and does not have a large or powerful military backbone, at least at first.

One of the unique features of this game is that no mater what faction you chose, you start the game at a totally protected home base that has a number of buildings already set up for you. When you go out on a mission, you depart from your home base, and set up mission bases. You can take extra equipment as needed from your home base or you can hold equipment and resources at that location for later use, or to stockpile natural resources for your ultimate planetary escape. During missions you still have access to your home base.

Managing all of that takes a careful balance and, as you might expect, resource management is a key focus of the game. You have your choice of missions ranging from espionage and resource collection to all out assaults on your foes.

Each of the three factions has a history and attitude that influences the way they attempt to reach their final goal: your destruction and their safe transport to the safety of the Red Planet Mars. The EU is built around the former eastern block technology, thus they are using a lot of out of dated technology like tanks, helicopters and boats. As you might expect they have spent much of their time flexing their military might and attacking their neighbors. Thus they are strongly offensive in nature, but very weak on defenses.

The UCS is probably the most balanced. Most of the military and workforce consists of robotic technology. And they are balanced between offense and defense.

The final group the LC has spent no time developing their military, but their base in scientific knowledge and research skills makes them extremely adept at defense, both of a traditional nature and of a non-traditional means, such as weather control.

I strongly recommend reading the manual and playing the tutorial for this game before you get into missions. Saying that, the interface for this game is very easy, the only catch is starting at your home base would be very confusing if you did not know what was going on. When you read the manual you will also discover another idea that was new to me in Earth 2150. Your units run out of ammo and other supplies. This is not to bad when your units are near your base, but when you start to do some long range attacks you need to make sure you have constructed enough aerial support units to re-supply your units. Running out of ammo is no fun at all.

As you might expect each race has there own unique units. For example, the ED has communication-disrupting Noise Generators and is the only group that can use nuclear weaponry. The LC is the only group to produce the Sonic Cannon and the Weather Control Center. Note the defensive nature of the LC’s special weapons and the offensive nature of the ED’s special equipment.

As I alluded to earlier, Earth 2150 does offer some unique new features, but the clincher for me and I would imagine other gamers who enjoy the real tactical experience is that Earth 2150 has 3D terrain, weather, and actual real-time play. Thus, you can plan your attack to take advantage of both the reduced visibility of the night or of a rainstorm to sneak up on your opponent. Adding to that you can also approach stealthy by moving your units around mountains or in total stealth by digging a tunnel to a position near your opponent’s base, and then doing a rush attack out of nowhere. Beyond rain, there are also snowstorms and snowdrifts to deal with, rivers to cross and other natural obstacles that can provide all sorts of advantages and disadvantages for both sides.

The interface allows you to zoom in and out, up and down and all around, basically letting you view the map from almost every angle and position. Throw in the terrain features like hills, rivers, cliffs and desert, plus the night and day effects and the weather and you have a really great, visually appealing game. The only negative is that some of the bars representing you unit’s health and remaining ammo can be hard to read at times. And the lack of an overall map that marks where your units are makes them hard to find at times. The vehicles and buildings even have lights that can be turned on and off, making them harder or easier to spot whatever the situation demands.

The computer has a good AI and follows the best doctrine. Don’t be surprised by a really good sneak attack or an ambush. The good AI is carried over to the unit level, and lead to some frustration. The multiplayer option has a number of fun scenario options to choose from and I don’t think you will be disappointed. They range from Kill ’em All, to Earn Money and include six scenarios in all.

Overall, I was extremely pleased with Earth 2150. It was not the same old RTS that one would expect. Topware Interactive kept a number of the key features of a good game while adding some really nice new features like terrain, weather, and time to enhance the tactical abilities of players. They also tossed in limited ammo, for even more realism.

I only have two closing comments. I personally found the factions to be unbalanced and jumping back between my base and my units was difficult. I tended to lose them on occasion. A map that easily showed where all your units are located would have really helped me. On the other hand, I don’t think any of that distracts significantly from the overall game play. If you are really into tactical combat and RTS games, then you need to play this game. I highly recommend it with 4 GiN Gems, and I hope to see some of you online at the MSN Gaming Zone, battling me for control of valuable sectors.

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